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Why is California closing Diablo Canyon nuclear plant?


Aerial view showing the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. It is situated at Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo County in California.

Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

California’s energy needs are not being met.

The August 2020 election will be held hundreds of thousandsThis is California residents experienced rolling electricity blackoutsIn the midst of a heatwave that nearly exhausted the state’s energy grid.

The California Independent System Operator issues flex alertsAsking customers to decrease their electricity usage. In 2020, there were five flex alerts and in 2021 eight. according to CAISO records

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Friday, September 10th. granted the state an emergency orderNatural gas power plants can be allowed to operate without pollution restrictionsCalifornia will be able to meet its energy commitments. It is effective until Nov. 9

The Diablo Canyon nuclear power station, which is owned by Pacific Gas and ElectricIt is located in San Luis Obispo County near Avila beach. The state’s final nuclear power station will be taken offline by a decade-long process.  In 2018, the regulatory licenses to reactor Unit 1 (and Unit 2), which were in operation since 1984 and 1985 respectively will be expired. November 2024 and August 2025The respective.

Diablo Canyon is California’s sole operating nuclear power station. Three other plants are still in different stages of decommissioning. California receives about 9 percent of its power from this plant. according to the California Energy CommissionThis compares to 37% for natural gas, 33% for renewables, 13.5% hydropower and 3% coal.

Nuclear power is clean energyThe generation of electricity does not cause any climate-related warming or global warming by emitting greenhouse gasses. While building a new power station does emit carbon dioxide, operating an existing plant doesn’t.

California is an advocate for clean energy. California passed legislation in 2018 that required it to use renewable energy. 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2045

It’s a confusing picture: California shuts down its final operating nuclear power station, which was a source for clean energy, because it is facing an energy crisis and the mandate to reduce carbon emissions.


There are many explanations, depending on who you ask. The state has a deep-rooted anti-nuclear agenda that underlies the diplomatic games.

“The California politics opposed to nuclear power are stronger and more organized than those in support of climate policies,” David Victor, professor of innovation and public policy at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego, told CNBC.

Country with earthquakes

Diablo can be found near many other places fault linesCracks in earth’s crust are potential locations for earthquakes

Following the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster, in Japan, 2011, concerns over earthquakes and nuclear reactors increased. On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck JapanA tsunami of 45 feet in height was caused by the accident. The cooling systems of the plant failed, and radioactive material was released into the surrounding area.

Michael Peck was the inspector of Diablo Canyon’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission in July 2013. issued a reportQuestioning the need to close the nuclear power plant while more investigation was made on fault lines around the site. The confidential report was obtained by the Associated Press and published in extensive review process

About 3 miles from Diablo Canyon is the Hosgri fault. It was found in 1970s, when construction was still in its early stages. The NRC made changes to research plans and was able find the Hosgri fault. Peck’s filing brought attention to another collection of nearby fault lines — the Shoreline, Los Osos and San Luis Bay

These discussions about safety take place against the background of shifting attitudes toward nuclear energy in the United States.

“Since Three Mile Island and then Chernobyl there has been a political swing against nuclear—since the late 1970s,” Victor told CNBC. “Analysts call this ‘dread risk’ — a risk that some people assign to a technology merely because it exists.  People have an underlying fear of the technology. It does not matter what objective safety analysis they use. Fear is what people fear.

SAN LUIS OBISPO (CALIFORNIA –JUNE 30): Diablo Canyon Anti-Nuclear Protest, June 30, 1979, San Luis Obispo. Photo by Bob Riha Jr./Getty Images

Bob Riha Jr | Archive Photos | Getty Images

Fear is real for residents who live near the city.

I’ve grown up in this area. Heidi Harmon, San Luis Obispo’s current mayor, stated that she’s been there all her adult life.

Harmon stated that although he has grown-up children, his daughter became very anxious after the 9/11 attacks. “My daughter, when she was quite young, was afraid of Diablo Canyon.

A network of sirens can be heard throughout San Luis Obispo County. called the Early Warning System SirensIt is used to alert residents nearby if there is any danger at the nuclear power station. They are regularly tested and can be heard as a disturbing sound.

Harmon states, “That is a clear reminder that our world is in danger from a nuclear power plant that could be incredibly hazardous.”

Also, Harmon doesn’t trust PG&E, the owner of Diablo Canyon, which has a spotted historyThe utility reached a record of. The utility was able to reach a staggering. $13.5 billion settlementIt was required to settle legal claims that the equipment caused fires throughout the state. pleaded guiltyTo 84 counts for involuntary murder stemming out of a fire that was started by the power line they had not repaired.

“I know that PG&E does its level best to create safety at that plant,” Harmon told CNBC. “But, we also see the state lack of responsibility and that has caused people’s deaths elsewhere in the state,” Harmon said to CNBC. with lines and fires

Heidi Harmon was the former mayor of San Luis Obispo

Photo courtesy Heidi Harmon

Although living under the Diablo Canyon shadows is frightening, it is an area where she is well-aware of the potential dangers of climate change.

A teenager texted me late at night to ask me about the IPCC. He wanted to know if there was an apocalypse and if my hope is still alive. Harmon said that he couldn’t tell his child it would be okay.

But PG&E is adamant that the plant is not shutting down because of safety concerns.

The utility has a team of geoscience professionals, the Long Term Seismic Program, who partner with independent seismic experts to ensure the facility remains safe, Suzanne Hosn, a spokesperson for PG&E, told CNBC.

As seen from the main entrance to Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo (Calif.) on Tues. Mar 31, 2015.

Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images| San Francisco Chronicle | Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

Hosn noted that “the seismic region surrounding Diablo Canyon has been one of our most researched and well understood regions in the nation.” “The NRC monitors Diablo Canyon’s seismic design as well as the strength of faults nearby. NRC finds the plant to be seismically safe.

The safety of the facility was also guaranteed by a former technical executive.  

Ed Halpin: “The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, an amazing, marvellous technology has supplied clean, reliable, and affordable power to Californians almost forty decades and still has the capacity to provide it for four more decades.” who was the Chief Nuclear Officer of PG&E from 2012 until he retied in 2017CNBC.

Halpin stated to CNBC that Diablo could run for 80 more years. CNBC’s Halpin stated that the life expectancy of Diablo is at minimum 20 years. The second extension would give it 40 years or forty years.

Nuclear is not wanted by local power-buying organizations

PG&E offered a very different reason for closing Diablo Canyon when it set the wheels in motion in 2016.

According to legal documents PG&E submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission, the utility anticipated lower demand — not for energy in general, but for nuclear energy specifically.

The 2016 legal documents state that one of the reasons is that a greater number of California residents are buying energy through community choice aggregaters (local energy purchasing groups). Many of these groups refuse to invest in nuclear.

California has 23 CCAs that serve more than 11,000,000 customers. According to the aforementioned report, less than 1 percent of Californians had access to CCAs in 2010. UCLA analysisPublished in October. This is an increase of more than 30 percent. the report said

The Redwood Coast Energy AuthorityCCA Humboldt County’s Managing Director Matthew Marshall stated to CNBC that he strongly supports renewable energy and nuclear over the CCA.

Marshall said that nuclear power can be more costly and generates toxic waste. These facilities also pose environmental and community risks due to the possibility of catastrophic accidents caused by natural disasters, equipment failures, human error or terrorist attacks. He is also the president and chief executive officer for the California CCA trade group.

Therefore, all power has been cut off by the Redwood Coast Energy Authority from Diablo Canyon.

Financial factors are also involved. CCAs which have rejected nuclear power are financially better off when Diablo closes. They are paying an ad hoc fee. Power Charge Indifference Adjustmentfee for energy resources that were in the PG&E portfolio for the region before it switched over to a CCA. The fee for Diablo will drop once it is no longer in effect.

CCAs continue to invest in new forms of energy. Central Coast Community Energy is another California CCA. It also chose not to purchase nuclear power from Diablo Canyon and instead invests in renewable energy.

PALM SPRINGS (CA) – MARCH 27, 2013. Powerful winds blow past giant wind turbines in Palm Springs. This was March 27, 2013, in California. California remains the country’s leader in green technologies and produces the fewest greenhouse gases per capita. This is despite having a large population and growing economy. (Photo by Kevork Dijansezian/Getty Images).

Getty Images| Getty Images News | Getty Images

Tom Habashi, CEO of CCCE, stated that CCCE contracts for two geothermal baseload projects (available 24 hours a day) and large-scale battery storage to make abundant renewable energy available during peak hour.

California’s clean energy law for 2018 requires that it be technically understood. 60% of that zero-carbon energy come from renewablesIt includes solar and wind, but leaves the possibility for the 40% remaining to come from any number of sources. Victor explained to CNBC that new nuclear is not a California policy. 

It is impossible for the utility to overlook local political will.

The most important relationship that you can establish with your regulator in a regulated utility is one of trust. Victor explained to CNBC that politics is expressed in this way. This is not Facebook. Facebook has people protesting it on the streets. But it continues to do what it did because it has shareholders and makes tons of money. They are tightly regulated companies. They are therefore more vulnerable to the politics of government than a regular firm.

Momentum and cost uncertainty

Apart from declining demand for nuclear power, PG&E’s 2016 report also noted California’s state-wide focus on renewables, like wind and solar.

As the percentage of renewables continues to climb, PG&E reasoned, California will collect most of its energy when the sun shines, flooding the electricity grid with surges of power cyclically. The constant supply of fixed nuclear energy can actually be a financial problem at the time when solar power is turbocharging the electricity grid.

California can produce so much energy it exceeds its grid capacity that California is unable to use the rest of its power supply. prices of electricity become negative — utilities essentially have to pay other states to take that energy, but are willing to do so because it’s often cheaper than bringing energy plants offline. While the state currently faces an energy crisis, it wasn’t in 2016!

PG&E also cited the cost to continue operating Diablo, including compliance with environmental laws in the state. The plant had a system called “once-through cooling,”It cools its reactors with water taken from the Pacific Ocean. This means that it must be heated. ocean water back out to the coastal waters near DiabloThis alarms environmental groups locally.

Once the final wheels have been set in motion, it can be costly and difficult to reverse.

Diablo will continue to operate up until 2025 after it was decommissioned. After that, fuel must be taken from the location.

Victor stated to CNBC, “For a plant which has been operational for a while, deconstruction cannot really start until the fuel has been removed from both the reactor and the pool, which can take a few years.” Only then will deconstruction be possible.

Victor said that it usually takes around a decade for a nuclear power plant to go offline. However, Victor believes this time frame is decreasing.

He said that safely dismantling nuclear plants is nearly as difficult and expensive as building them.

Politics favor renewables

This combination is accompanied by a political climate almost solely focused on renewable energy.

Victor, in addition to his academic duties, chairs the volunteer board that will oversee the San Onofre closing. He stated that the expensive repairs required to renew the operating license of the plant were necessary.

Kern County CA, 23 March: LADWPs Pine Tree Wind Farm, and Solar Power Plant at the Tehachapi Mountains Tehachapi Mountains, Tuesday March 23, 2021, Kern County CA.(Irfan Khan/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Irfan Khan| Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Victor explained that the situation at Diablo was in some ways more troubling because it has a well-operating plant. California has many politically influential groups that believe this. [addressing climate change]You can do it mainly or only with renewable energy. There is absolutely no need for nuclear energy in such a world.

Pro-nuclear elements are trying to win. One example is Californians for Green Nuclear PowerDiablo Canyon is an advocacy group that works to ensure it remains open. Mothers for Nuclear

It’s very frustrating. Gene Nelson, the legal advisor for the independent nonprofit organization, said that it was frustrating. Californians for Green Nuclear Power

“But it’s so important to our future as a species — that’s why I’m making this investment. Nelson added that Nelson is not the only one making similar time investments, others at different levels of law and in other policy areas.

Victor stated that even if California is able to build sufficient renewable energy sources to supply its needs, many unknowns remain.

The problem with the grid isn’t just about the amount of electricity. CNBC interviewed him to discuss the importance of knowing when power is available and whether it can be shut off just as often as required to maintain grid stability. And there we don’t know.”

It could be costly. It could be hard. Victor explained to CNBC that sometimes we might miss our targets. “Nobody knows.”

California is currently working to expand its renewable energy resources. Its import ability will determine its future. Mark Z. JacobsonProfessor at Stanford of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The state imports hydropower from Canada and Pacific Northwest, as well as other resources from West.

Jacobson stated to CNBC that California will increase renewable energy each year. The buildout should be completed on time, given California’s import ability from other states.